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May 1, 2012 at 6:30 am
By Peter Watkins '12

The person I was in high school and the person I am now are very different.  That might sound like the most clichéd statement of all time, but it’s still true.  Of course, I have been here between the ages of 18 and 21, so some personal growth is to be expected.  However, I think the responsibility also lies somewhere beyond that.  While I consider myself to have been a reasonably accepting and tolerant person, it was not until I spent my first year at Carleton that everything I thought I knew about other people was completely challenged.  I should probably explain that I am from a tiny farming town in rural Vermont, emphasis on tiny.  I did not really feel like I fit in during high school, and generally felt that nobody appreciated me nor understood me.  Given that, you can imagine my excitement and happiness when I arrived at Carleton, and immediately I felt more accepted and appreciated than I ever have in my life.  For the first time, I felt like I was around a group of students who were just like me.  However, and it took me a bit longer to understand this, but the students aren’t actually ‘just like me’.  In fact, they’re very different from me, in all kinds of ways.  There is so much diversity at Carleton, and in so many different forms.  The students here come from so many different backgrounds and places and viewpoints.  Because of that, I had to learn to never assume something about someone I don’t really know.  Unless you ask, you can never know the specific experiences and settings that made someone the way they are.  Furthermore, at Carleton you will have to ask if you want to know, because the students here don’t really like talking about themselves without cause.  Self-absorption is not something we really do here, for the most part.  But that’s a different story.

Maybe the real difference between my high school and Carleton is that the students here not only don’t assume what your background is, but also actively want to know and understand and appreciate what it is.  In a small town, everyone already knows that, or at least they think they do, myself included.  Here, we don’t make that assumption.  Carleton is a very accepting and loving place.  And it needs to be, because, although it might not seem it, no two students here are ‘just like’ each other.

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